This week, "Scream 4" hit both Blu-ray and DVD and while we had reservations when we initially saw it, it was still a lot of fun (maybe more-so on home video, which adds even more oomph to the wonderful, meta-textual opening sequence). There are also tons of delicious extras that give you a good peek behind the scenes at the occasionally troubled production (including a healthy amount of deleted scenes and an ace commentary track). We got to speak to the genuinely legendary Wes Craven about his intentions for the film, how much of it resembled Kevin Williamson‘s original draft, and fighting with the Weinsteins.
When we reviewed "Scream 4" earlier this year, we were somewhat confused as to what the "thesis" of the film was – was it supposed to be a remake, a sequel, a reboot? What? "I suppose in some ways it was a reboot but really it was the beginning of a new trilogy," Craven explained. "It was intentionally kept from being started for a long time, until about a year before we filmed. Bob Weinstein and Kevin Williamson were tossing around ideas but what we all wanted was something completely different from the previous three films, something that could be the first film of a new trilogy and be based on things that were around and very important now, things that weren’t around, at all, ten years ago when the last ‘Scream‘ happened."
The technological advancements forged in between "Scream" films (the blossoming of social network sites, texting and streaming web content) were elements that encouraged Craven return to the franchise. "I’d just been noticing it myself. You walk down the street and four out of five people are walking with their heads down. It’s like a science fiction film where everyone has been conquered. Even on the film, you notice it," he explained. "When we were filming the final scene at the house there’s this huge porch and everyone is sort of waiting on it and everyone’s heads were over and their faces were glowing with this pale, ghostly light. It was like, ‘This is so different than anything I’ve experienced in my life.’ It’s changed the whole discussion. Just the instant ability to communication and share information and details of your life. The whole idea of tweeting, where you as an individual [are] the center of your own film, is really different and really interesting. And the idea of working with Bob again and Kevin again and Courtney [Cox], David [Arquette], and Neve [Campbell] – it was a big thrill."
The idea that Craven would be excited to throw in with Williamson and Weinstein again was somewhat shocking to us, considering the painful birthing of not only "Scream 3" (which saw Ehren Kruger and a then-relatively-unknown, pre-"Avatar" Laeta Kalogridis doing extensive rewrites) but, more recently, "Cursed," the "Scream" team’s smart-alecky take on the werewolf genre that saw production shut down several times with large swaths of the movie being rewritten and reshot. We asked if there was any hesitation to jump back with these guys.
"You know, some people never change, but the overall working condition was very good. I didn’t give in. I said, ‘I want to see a script before I say yes or no.’ Because the worst thing about ‘Cursed’ was that it kept being changed," Crave admitted. "To an extent that was still the case, but not where we had to shut down and have a total rewrite twice, which is what happened on ‘Cursed.’ Kevin was very excited by what he had, I thought it was terrific, and he had sketched out not only the first film but where a new trilogy could go. So we were on much more solid ground. And people change but Bob Weinstein and I never had instances where we weren’t speaking to each other – we would scream at each other and the next day we’d be laughing about it."
Craven explained it wasn’t just little horror movies that have problems with their screenplays, "I had to remind myself that ‘Casablanca‘ was a film where they wrote the ending two days before they shot it. Things change all the time and you have to be very fluid."
A number of Craven’s earlier works, most notably "Last House on the Left," "Nightmare on Elm Street," and the underrated "Scream" precursor "New Nightmare," were films that he both wrote and directed. On the "Scream 4" commentary he makes note of scenes in the film that he ended up scripting on set. So how much of the final movie was from Williamson’s draft and how much did Craven come up with on the spot? "Well, none of it was invented on-the-spot. Sometimes almost on-the-spot. I would say that 75% of it was beat-for-beat Kevin’s and there was always a lot of difficulty in drawing all the strings together," he explained. "I think we did, eventually, during the Stab-a-thon sequence and the ending at the house. It’s always really difficult with a murder mystery and especially this one because we had so many central characters. That proved to be a very tricky balance. But it turned out great."
While Craven seemed happy with the final product, we had to wonder if the "Scream 4" delivered to theaters this spring was the "Scream 4" he set out to make, with Bob Weinstein and Kevin Williamson, a year earlier. "Oh absolutely. It would have been much harder if I hadn’t signed on without a completed script, but that’s always been the case with the ‘Scream’ films. There’s never been a script that I’ve done where we’ve stuck work-for-word with the original script, with the exception of maybe the first ‘Scream.’ But that was because Kevin had stuck with it for a number of years and refined that got it just exactly right. He had no distractions because that was his shot at the big time, and it paid off. But at the time he didn’t have a lot of distractions. Now he has a television show as well and that was a factor."
"Originally it was notes to Kevin, then conversations over the telephone. Sometimes, early on, he was able to come to the set," Craven said as he elaborated on the rewriting. "Then the television show became more and more pressing. There were a bunch of writers over the years who had done what-if drafts, but Ehren Kruger was brought in more and more. There were some things I did myself, like half of the scene of the parking garage sequence, because no one was around to do it and I sent it to Bob and he said, ‘Yeah that’s great.’ Like I said it’s a movie with a lot of characters plus you’re trying to make a political statement, too, without being preachy."
When we asked if the movie had performed well enough to warrant completing the new trilogy, it was the only time during the conversation that the genial Craven bristled. "No, it’s done very well, somewhere near the $100 million mark worldwide, and it’s just now going into DVD and Blu-ray. So it’s fine. But I haven’t gotten the first act yet. The deal between me and Bob is that he has to send me the first act before I say yes or no."
If subsequent chapters in the new "Scream" trilogy are a little ways off, we wondered what Craven was up to next. "Well, for right now I’m doing something uncharacteristic, which is take some time off. My wife also produced ‘My Soul to Take‘ [last year’s 3D metaphysical teen slasher], which I wrote and directed. So that’s a lot of work. We made a pact with ourselves to take the summer off and get back to being human beings and smelling the roses. So that’s principally what I’ve been doing, although I’ve been working on the concept for a children’s book, and I’m about to close a deal for a three comic book series. But beyond that I’m doing a TED conference talk in October where I’m going to be talking about the nature of fear." Spooky!
"Scream 4" is now on Blu-ray and DVD.